2020 Back to Basics – Plan

All this month I’ve been getting back to basics so we can accept our chronic illness limitations, but grow through them and begin to have more joy in our lives again. I talked about the stages of grief and finding a new path that God would have for us. This week, I want to share how exactly we do that.

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

They say that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It’s never been truer than for those of us with chronic illness. It’s hard enough to plan our day with fatigue and pain. It takes a bit more to plan your life, but it is necessary.

If it’s not on my To Do List, it don’t get to done! I find it so much easier to get things done, work my plan, do what I feel God is leading me to do if it’s on a list that I can check off when I’m done.

Once you know what you’re to do in each area of your life, you can begin to make those things happen by asking yourself questions. Do you need to change doctors to get better health this year? What steps can you begin to take to earn extra income? If it’s a new job, what steps can you take to get where you need to go? What things can you do to have better communication with your spouse?

Make a commitment to keep working your plan. Write it down where you can see it, look at it each day, work toward it each day. Having a goal and actually taking steps to move forward is what I found brought my joy back. It’s not always easy. In fact, it’s hardly ever easy. But it is worth it because it’s what God has for me and gives me purpose.

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

What is it for you? How can you take steps toward your purpose and joy?

2020 Back to Basics – Live & grow

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

We’re getting back to basics this month. That old saying, “There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” never sat well with me. I’ve shared this before, but if our tunnel is chronic, it usually doesn’t end this side of heaven. That means we have to find the light inside our tunnel and last week we began that process by talking about the five stages of grief as it applies to those of us with chronic illness.

The five stages of grief may seem insurmountable at the time, but I’ve found that what comes next is the hardest part because once you get to acceptance, then what? What’s next? Next, you have to learn to live with it and grow through it.

This can seem impossible because you have your ideas of what life should have looked like, should have been, work you should be doing except for limitations imposed by your chronic issues. But how you allow God to mold you and change you into the life He has established for you will make all the difference.

Instead of looking at your past hopes and dreams and continuing to grieve for what will never be, I’ve found that it is far more positive and uplifting to allow God to guide me to the work he has for me in my present state. God always knew how my life would turn out. It wasn’t a surprise to Him, just to me. I figured, God created me and He has a plan for my life, so if He knew this, He must have work for me that I cannot see at this time.

The first step is to ask God for guidance and pray to hear His direction. I had been writing since I was nine years old. I had dreams of becoming a songwriter. Well, actually at that age, I had dreams of becoming a famous singer. As I grew up, my life changed and so my dreams changed. For me, they changed from writing songs to writing speech communication books to writing about chronic illness. The writing remained the same, but what I did with the talent the Lord blessed me with changed.

For you, it might be a more distinct change from something like working outside the home to selling your artwork. But it isn’t just our work life that changes when we have chronic illness. It’s every area of our lives. So…

The next step is to establish what would help you in all the areas of your life: health, family, career, and ministry. I went over this extensively in my series on Chronic Illness New Year’s Resolutions. You can click on each of those and look through those areas of your life for ideas.

After you know what you can change, adapt, and adopt in these areas of your life the final step is what I’ll be talking about next week so stay tuned!

2020 Back to Basics – Grief Cycle

Now that you know a bit about me and why I’m sharing my thoughts on chronic illness here, let’s get back to the basics of why I started this blog in the first place. In the beginning, when you and I were first diagnosed with one or any of all of the chronic issues we have, we went through the stages of grief.

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
” -Psalm 34:18

Whether you did it quickly or you are still in one of the stages today, it is something we all contend with when we are given a diagnosis that affects the rest of our lives. You’ve heard that it isn’t what happens to you, but how you handle it that matters. Well, I do know from experience that it’s easier said than done but allow me to give you the benefit of my experience.

If you look at your diagnosis as a life sentence, you are going to see all the limitations and all the problems that come with it. However, if you look to any opportunities, experience, education, and what you may gain from having a chronic illness, you’ll see all the good that God has put there for you.

If you can’t see it now, don’t worry. It’ll be there when you’re ready to do so. It all goes back to the beginning and those five stages of grief following any difficult trial we endure. And here they are:

The first stage is denial. In my experience, this stage can go on for anywhere from a few hours to a few years depending upon what it is you are to accept and where you are in your life at the time.

When I was diagnosed with hayfever, I thought the doctor was off his nut. I didn’t sneeze. I had a sore throat! He never explained and I never asked so for many years I denied it was a problem. Only after being diagnosed with several chronic issues, did I realize why that doctor came to that conclusion. Hayfever isn’t just sneezing! Wanna guess what it can also be? Yup!

By the time I was diagnosed with Fibro, I had known something was not right with my energy and pain for YEARS! That diagnosis didn’t go through a period of denial at all. Other diagnoses took some form of denial of different lengths. Your mileage may vary.

The next step is anger and this is one that I tend to come back to from time to time when I’m in a dark place. Why me?! Why ALWAYS me?! So and so doesn’t have half these things to deal with. I already have tons of things…why me again?!

When I realize that being angry only uses up more energy, I can do things that snap me out of it and give me a more positive and proactive outlook. I also find that those so and so’s I thought never had to deal with XYZ had to deal with something else I never had to deal with. Either way, I come to a point of letting go of the anger to get on with what I need to do and what I can do.

The third step is bargaining. Bargaining with God that if He heals you, you’ll be better, do better. It’s where you’re trying to get your old life back. In a way, this brings false hope that you can achieve that.

While God can do anything, He doesn’t always do what we want or when we want it. I know God can heal me completely, but I don’t know when or if He will this side of heaven. Meanwhile, I have a life to live as best I can so I move on through the grief stages to that end.

The fourth step of grief is depression. That’s another one of the steps I find myself going back to at times. Why me, Lord and now what? I think we all need to sit with this for a time (may it be a few days or a few months) before we can move on from here.

Early on, it took much more time to move out of the depression phase. At this point in my life, I find myself in depression for just a few hours before I can move on again to the next step which is the BEST step. Every time there is a glitch in my health issues, a new diagnosis, a financial bump along the chronic illness road, I find myself back in the depression step, but for a shorter and shorter time.

Don’t get too upset if you find yourself here again. It’s a fallen world and stuff happens. Just don’t hesitate to work your way through it to the final step where you can see the joy, find a new purpose, and bring meaning to it all.

The final step in the stages of grief is acceptance. This is the phase where you have come to terms with what has happened, but you can focus your time and whatever energy you have on finding meaning and purpose in your life.

He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

There are a surprising amount of things you can accomplish if you allow the Lord to direct your steps. It takes working through all these steps first in order to hear God. Once that happens, you need to keep an open mind to what the Father is leading you to do. I have been amazed at the things I’ve been able to do that have helped others and taken my mind off of what I can’t do and put it on what God can do through me–even though I have limited energy.

There are two final things I’d like to put to you. The first is that the stages of grief are just a bit different for accepting a chronic illness as opposed to something like blindness or even cancer. People understand what it must be like to deal with blindness and they have a heart for those who are going through cancer…or at least they will accept them as a real problem. When you are dealing with a chronic issue that people don’t understand, they also don’t understand why and how you’d be going through these stages of grief.

Finally, I want to point out that acceptance doesn’t have to mean you give up or that God won’t heal you. Acceptance means that you have come to terms with how things are. You can have acceptance of a trial without giving up and thinking you’ll never get better or never be productive or that God will never heal you.

I know that God can do anything and He answers all prayer. However, I also know that sometimes His answer is yes, sometimes it’s no, and sometimes it’s wait. I’m waiting to be healed (whether in this life or in heaven), but I’m doing all I can to live my best life with God’s help.

Which stage are you currently in? I’d love it if you’d share your experiences. Next week, I’ll talk about once you get to acceptance, what next? Stay tuned!

2020: Back to Basics

I thought I’d start off this year getting back to basics. However, in case you’re just joining me at Life Beyond Surviving here in 2020, I thought I’d start at the beginning of how and why I started this blog. I’ve always sought to be understood because I’ve never been able to fit in with the crowd. My life has always been a bit quirky. I guess you could say I’m not your average Jo…Jo!

I’ve always been different, weird if you will. So, I understand how important it is to be supported for who you are and the different circumstances you find yourself in. That is the essence of chronic illness, isn’t it? We don’t feel most people get us. Sometimes when you have been through so much you find yourself asking God why. Why me? Why so much hardship? Why can’t I just be normal?

Why? In my case, I think it’s because I can help others…and I have never been normal…

I’m only 5′ tall, wearing children’s shoes, hats, and gloves. I used to sit on a telephone book in order to see over the steering wheel.

I was born to Atheists of Jewish descent, married a nonpracticing Catholic and became a nondenominational Christian because of Amway meetings and a Jehovah’s Witness that came to my door.

I’m an older mom having had my first at 27 and my second and last child at 36. I didn’t vaccinate my son though I did my daughter. Both my kids are incredibly intelligent. My son is that as well as Autistic or what they used to call Asperger’s.

I chose to homeschool my kids and for seventeen years we fielded all sorts of questions about socialization and getting into college. In case you’re wondering, they both were able to hold their own during the inevitable inquisitions from cable guys to relatives and went on to elite universities.

I’m weird in my medical history as well. Having had Fibro since I was a teenager and several other issues shortly after giving birth to my son at 37, I’m all too familiar with the misunderstandings that chronic illness has in the general community.

In addition to Fibro, I’ve struggled with perimenopause hot flashes for over twenty years. I also have Essential Tremors, Arthritis, Osteoporosis, and I can’t even remember all the rest. In addition, I’ve had nine surgeries in my lifetime. Five of them in a 2.5 year period of time including one due to cancer.

I’ve been married 33 years. I’ve been a mom for 30 years, I homeschooled for 17 years and I’ve had chronic illnesses spanning most of my life. I have a wealth of knowledge about several topics and how to do them with chronic illness.

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. ” -Hebrews 13:16

My heart is to share my knowledge and support others who are struggling with chronic conditions. My mission is to help them see the joy, the light, God’s light not just at the end of a tunnel (trial) they might be going through, but INside the tunnel (during the trials that are so long they don’t end this side of heaven).

Chronic Illness New Year’s Resolutions – Part 4

Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.” – 2 Chronicles 15:7

So far we’ve talked about how to make baby steps toward some health, business, and family goals or resolutions. This week, I’d like to share about your ministry. Just because we’re physically weak, doesn’t mean there isn’t work that God has for us to do. It just may take a different form than we may think.

You are not useless because you are chronically ill. There are still joys in your life and there is still a purpose to it. God has designed you for something greater than just to suffer and struggle with chronic issues. I know from experience.

The best knowledge is experience and the worst experience at the very least teaches us lessons that help us understand and help others. The worst of my chronic problems have taught me how others feel and qualifies me not only fo understand them, but to help them. Whether I do that by standing up in front of a large congregation and speak to thousands or I witness to just one on one.

What’s the deepest need you had when in the throws of the most difficult of times? It’s to be understood. What was it you desired from others at that time? It wasn’t advice. It was a hug or someone just to say I understand. And that’s exactly what you can do and be for others!

How you do that may differ from how I do that. I have a Facebook group. I also have this blog. This is my ministry. You may have a different calling.

You may be called to just go online and uplift others. You may be called to post uplifting quotes and pictures on social media. You may be called to find humor in your difficulties that will bring a much-needed giggle to a weary heart in need. You might have a talent to knit infant clothes to give to newborns whose family can’t afford much. You might have a call on your heart to organize the collection of things to give to the homeless.

Your spiritual ministry could be online, via text, a weekly phone or online prayer group, to reach out to others who are hurting on phone or online or to write books. Or you could volunteer to help monitor an online group you’re in. There are any number of things you may have a gifting or calling for that you could do from your home where you don’t need to expend energy you don’t have to go anywhere you can’t get to.

What gifts or talents do you have? What could you do that might minister to others? How might you plan or make a resolution to help others with that gift or talent? I pray this series has helped you to resolve to make 2020 a great year in the Lord! God bless!!

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit[a] your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.” – Psalm 37:4-5

The Marriage Secret

Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

My husband and I are married 33yrs today. We were together five years before that so we’ve been together for 38 years! We’ve been through good times and bad times. At times, the bad times have almost overshadowed the good times especially when we were going through several chronic illnesses, family issues, and financial stresses all at the same time.

People often ask me what’s the secret to being married for so long, especially as so many call it quits before the first decade. I’ll tell you. It’s not all of the things most Hollywood movies say it is. It’s commitment.

Marriage isn’t just love. Love will not see you through. Many couples divorce still feeling love for one another; it’s just that they never learned to live through the tough stuff. Without commitment, love may not even survive.

Here’s what marriage really is:
It’s facing financial ruin together. It’s hours praying over a virus that may take your child’s life. It’s holding each other through the loss of a pregnancy. It’s building a life together again after a devastating job loss. It’s moving across the country together not knowing a soul and leaving all your family behind so that you only have each other to rely on.

It’s going without so your husband can get what he needs to get to work. It’s working with a bum knee and the flu because you can’t take off from a temp job without sacrificing your son’s college tuition. It’s crying together after watching your MIL dying on a video chat because you can’t get there. It’s coffee on Sunday mornings before church reminiscing about all the little things your kids did and how they’ve grown up so fast.

It’s not the romantic dinners or fancy vacations you look back on that make you smile. It’s the thought that the other did the little things that cost them dearly just because they wanted to make your life a little easier!

Marriages that last are made up of two imperfect people committed to getting through those tough times…relying upon God to help them through the tough times. Because there WILL be tough times!

Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Chronic Illness New Year’s Resolutions – Part 3

A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

I’ve been talking all this month about the ways in which we, who have chronic illness, can make goals or as some would call them at this time of year New Year’s Resolutions. So far, I’ve talked about health and business or career goals we can still have even given the fact that we lack energy and are in pain. This week, I’d like to focus on family.

Part 3: Family
Family is so important, but it can be difficult to take care of our family when we’re always tired and in pain. I know so many of us feel guilty for not being able to do things with and for our kids or husbands. We beat ourselves up for not being able to cook meals for our church family. Instead of going places or doing things for our family, we may be able to be of help in other non-energetic ways.

Driving is hard for me since my tremors have increased. It takes a lot more energy than I usually possess to shower, dress, drive, and visit. However, I can text or call instead. I can skype or go online and visit with people virtually. That keeps me connected. Instead of making goals to get out more, I’ve resolved to be out more. Invite people over, connect online, be involved more in groups, help others more, call more, keep in touch more often.

Sometimes when a family member is down or has some difficulties, it can be hard to help financially or to be there to help with errands or housework or to cook. But I can be of help by making it a point to text an uplifting quote per day or call weekly to be a sounding board. It’s possible to make a special craft item and ship it to them or write a poem and email it.

I once made it a point to text an uplifting or funny quote every day to a friend who was going through a tough time with family. I couldn’t be there and she didn’t have time to talk, but she found it helpful and uplifting to see my text every morning. She said it really helped her through a very tough time in her life. Just because you don’t think it’s a big gesture, doesn’t mean it isn’t important and meaningful to them. There’s always some way to connect and help others in your family.

My sister and I live across the country from each other and my mom lives in a third state seven hours from our mom. We started planning a Generational conference call once every few months so we could feel as if we were there with each other and chat in real-time. It was my mom, both of her daughters and, on one call, our daughters as well. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t do, but it would never have happened if we hadn’t resolved to plan it.

What would you like to do with family? What could you plan instead? What would be doable yet also meaningful? Plan it for 2020. While we all have adversity, we can all plan some way to connect with family and help one another whether they are your parents or your children.

A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

Next week, I’ll share part four on our spiritual lives. Please check back!

Chronic Illness New Year’s Resolutions – Part 2

There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” -Proverbs 19:21

While it can be difficult to make plans while struggling with chronic illness, I shared last week that these goals, or resolutions if you like, don’t need to be grandiose. Last time, I talked about health goals. This week, I’d like to share some ideas for business goals or resolutions if you prefer.

Part 2: Business
So many with chronic illness no longer have a job let alone a career. After all, pain and zero energy is a tough way to make a living. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t earn money. While it’s difficult to get to a job every day, it’s becoming more common for companies to allow employees to work from home. It’s also possible to make money by doing creative things at home due to a little discovery called the world wide web.

If you’ve had to leave a job you either loved or hated, you can make a resolution to find another way of earning a living or contributing to your household finances with any marketable skills and talents you may have. The first thing you’ll need to do is to take inventory of your skills, talents, and interests. What do you like to do? Is it something that you could sell on eBay, Amazon, or on your own website?

The first resolution you can make in 2020 is to discover what talent you have that you might be able to earn from. Next, make a date by which you’ll be done with your soul searching and information gathering. Then, take baby steps to bring that about.

Do you crochet? Sew? Craft? Paint? I’m a writer. I love to put words to story and I love it when what I write can move people. I can write any time I have the energy. I can do it online in my blog or put a book together which is one of my resolutions for 2020.

I know a woman who wrote instrumental songs that expressed how she felt about the Lord. She planned to put them all on a recording and offer the album for sale. I knew a few writers who make a decent living and some editors who do as well.

There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” -Proverbs 19:21

What’s a talent that God gave you? How can you use it to make an extra income or a living? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ll be back next week to talk about the third area of our lives that we can plan for.

Chronic Illness New Year’s Resolutions-Part 1

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit[a] your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.” – Psalm 37:4-5

Everyone else is out there making big plans and calling them New Year’s Resolutions. I’m here just trying to see if this new medication is going to help me with one of my issues. But that’s okay because I’m not like everyone else. I have chronic illness.

Chronic issues make lots of things difficult. It’s hard enough to commit to attending a party because you never know how much energy you’ll have at that point or how much pain you’ll be in, but at this time of year, it’s especially hard to make plans for your future. That being said, if you look at it differently, you can do just that.

Who says New Year’s Resolutions need to be grandiose? There’s no law that says you’re a failure if you don’t invent time travel or discover a cure for cancer. You might notice that most “normal” people aren’t planning to rule the world. While you may not be able to plan for perfect health or wealth, you can plan to take a step toward a realistic goal or to something new you have wanted to try.

There are four aspects of our lives I’d like to talk about in this series and the first one is rather obvious for those of us with chronic illness: health.

Part 1: Health
The most common New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight…x number of pounds by such and such a date. At the time I’m writing this, I’d love to lose 50lbs! I’m a short woman (5′ Nuthin’) with small bones so the charts say I should weigh 100lbs. Now, before you all have time to think that this is unrealistic for any woman (even my height or lack thereof), I spent most of my adult life at 103lbs and was quite comfortable at that weight.

While I’d love to be even 103 pounds again, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the monumental task of losing that much weight since I’ve gained so much after menopause and haven’t been able to lose any in the three years post-hysterectomy. Most of the challenge in losing weight for those of us who are chronically ill is the fatigue. It’s hard enough to have the energy to take a shower much less to exercise enough to keep 50lbs off!

But I can resolve to walk a certain number of days per week. I might set a goal to lose 10 or 20 or 30 pounds. Baby steps. They say even if you travel at the rate of a turtle, you’re still moving forward. Moving forward in our goals is a BIG thing for us chronic illness warriors because it’s a much greater accomplishment than anything we ever did as a healthy person. It takes a lot more commitment and strength. Don’t ever discount small accomplishments! Those baby steps add up to giant leaps after a while.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit[a] your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.” – Psalm 37:4-5

Some goals can’t be cut in pieces. Some things need preliminary actions in order to come to pass. So, another way to go is to resolve to eat better, learn about any supplements that may help your chronic issues, or sleep better.

They say that it’s not really a goal until there is something tangible to measure and has a date by which you’ll accomplish it. However, that measure doesn’t have to be a number of pounds and that date doesn’t have to be when it’s all lost. It can simply be that you eat better this year or that you spend a few hours a week researching supplements that can help you.

What’s a health goal you’d like to set that you will resolve to work on in 2020? Leave a comment here with your thoughts. Next week, I’ll be back to discuss one of the other four areas of life that we can make a resolution to improve this year. I hope you join me!

Happy New Year, Survivors!

I started this blog almost three years ago with the intent to support those with chronic illness and conditions because it’s the chronic part of those terms that make life so much more difficult. It can be a lonely life because chronic issues can limit what we can do or how much of it we can do. It’s isolating.

My heart was to bring some joy, information, support, and humor to a group of weary people who often feel alone and hopeless to control a life they don’t recognize anymore.

My goal is to help others to find the road to living a Life Beyond Surviving! I pray you’ll join me in 2020 to make it your best year with chronic illness yet!

I’d love to hear how this blog has helped you so far. Please leave a comment with your thoughts and suggestions for future posts. Until then, Happy New Year, Survivors!